By Abdel Razek Al Shuwekhi
Beginning in June, the Ministry of Tourism is will impose a $7 development tax on tourists arriving in airports in Alexandria, South Sinai, Hurghada, Luxor and Aswan, according to ministry officials.
The fee, which would not be applied in Marsa Alam International Airport, would be enforced for six months, said Adala Ragab, economic advisor to Minister of Tourism Hisham Zaazou.
Egypt’s tourism income declined during the first quarter of this year to $1.3bn, down 43% from the same period last year, which prompted the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in May to raise the visa fee for tourists from $ 15 to $25.
Egyptian tourism companies have petitioned the Ministry of Tourism about the visa fee raise, saying the decision does not take into account the state of the industry since the 25 January Revolution, Ragab said.
Tourism employs 3.8 million workers directly and indirectly, according to the Ministry of Tourism.
Ragab said, however, that the ministry “cannot repeal the development fee because parliament passed it as law.” She said the ministry is considering how to impose it.
The Ministry of Tourism imposed departure fees between $15 and $20 for more than five months at Hurghada and Sharm El-Sheikh Airports, which amounted to $122m. Rajab said the fees are playing a role in “supporting the sector during its crisis.”
Hisham Ali, president of the Tourism Investor Association of South Sinai, said the decision along with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ decision to raise its visa fee from $15 to $25 per passenger, will support tourism However, he believes it would have been better if the ministry postponed the fee hike.
South Sinai contains 33% of the all hotel rooms in Egypt, which total 225,000 rooms.
The average occupancy rate is between 40% and 45%, he said. “I do not expect it to increase during the coming period,” he said.
Fifteen European countries issued travel warnings regarding the Sinai Peninsula last February after the bombing of a tourist bus near Taba on Egypt’s border with the occupied Palestinian territories.
European tourists account for 72% of all foreigners travelling to Egypt, Ali said. “European tourists only come via high-cost regulated airlines, compared to charter flights,” he said.
While the number of tourists from Western Europe has declined, tourists from Russia and Eastern Europe are still flocking to Egypt, Ali said. “Occupancy rates in Sharm El-Sheikh are higher than those in nearby destinations,” he said.